Interview with Sweetwater Strings

Sweetwater Strings
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Describe the band
Sweetwater Strings is an eclectic group of stringed musicians- if it has strings, we play it! From fiddle to ukulele, harp to bass, we play a mixture of classical pieces, jazz standards, cultural folk dances from around the world, Latin flamenco, Bossa Nova and rock covers for strings.

Does the band's name have any significance?
Since we are in the desert, we wanted a name that would be as refreshing as our approach to string music and still let people know our specialty. Sweetwater Strings hits the spot!

How long has the band been together?
I founded Sweetwater Strings in 2007 along with Myra Lin, one of our main violinists and our music arranger, who was the original violinist in our Sweetwater String Quartet. We have worked together to grow our group to over 15 talented string musicians from all over the US. It's been only a matter of years and we're getting recognized with some prestigious awards in the wedding and event planning business, so it's been an exciting experience.

How did you come up with the concept for the band?
I have never been a traditional violinist- I hated the fierce competition of high profile orchestras and the rigid structure of most conservatories. I am Irish, and the loose playfulness of fiddle reels is what I love to play. Then as I traveled and learned more about other cultures and their music, I've embraced the music traditions from Israel, Mexico, Latin America, India and East Asia in addition to the European traditions we were taught in school. Strings are everywhere in the world, and that is the one thing that ties all these places together- and that's what we've tried to do with our music.

What kind of response do you get from your audiences?
We have such a range of music that we play- at memorial services we've had people sobbing at a loved one's favorite song, at engagements we've played songs that are inside jokes between the couple (The Chicken Dance?) and at parties we've had people dancing around us and clapping their hands. It's so fun to get to see people's reactions on so many different levels.

Where did you grow up?
I am from Detroit originally, and fell in love with Motown and the rich music history there. When I moved to Arizona, I fell in love with the country roots here as well as the Latin influence, so it's created this mixture of styles that we love to toy around with.

Do you have any musical training?
All of our musicians have their Bachelors in Music, though many have higher degrees of education in everything from Music Therapy to Jazz Composition.

What is your favorite venue?
Arizona is such a gorgeous place, and we play most of our gigs outside so we get all the best sights- we've played in the mountains of Sedona, on the rooftops of Phoenix and in the flower-dotted fields of Patagonia. It's pretty nice if you've got your SPF on!

What is the craziest thing that has ever happened at a gig?
We've seen our share of fainting and drunken antics, but we've also dressed up as Medieval knights, Star Wars characters, Irish hooligans and Gothic priests. We've been in a lot of interesting wedding ceremonies!

Do you use any vintage instruments?
My violin is a 1780s French violin, and I know the other musicians have some gorgeous pieces- some that are reserved for special performances. My favorite find was a vintage 1920s American fiddle that I found at a garage sale in Chicago for $75! You never know what you can find, and with a little TLC you can make any instrument show quality.